The 408th anniversary of the discovery of the Gunpowder Plot will be a particularly proud occasion for Lewes Borough Bonfire Society.
Because this is a landmark year for the town’s oldest society as it commemorates 150 years of carrying the ‘Monster Iron Key of the Ancient Borough of Lewes’ in its procession.
It weighs a hefty 51kg – that’s eight stone – and was first carried in 1863.
Last month saw a re-dedication of the key, which represents the freedom of the streets on The Fifth which was granted to Borough all those years ago.
The ceremony took place with due pomp at Lewes Town Hall, with a proclamation granting “free and fair” passage signed by the Lord Lieutenant of East Sussex, Mr Peter Field, and the Mayor of Lewes, Cllr Ruth O’Keeffe.
Although shrouded in secrecy, it is highly probable that the key will play a prominent part in the subject of this year’s tableaux.
The Town (or Lewes) Bonfire Society, later to become Lewes Borough, was founded in 1853 and has been marching the streets of the town for 160 years.
Borough is the ‘home’ of the Zulus, which is the society’s First Pioneer Group in their magnificent feathered head-dresses.
They will have pride of place in the Grand Procession, ahead of Lewes Borough’s Brass Band, the Second Pioneers of Tudor ladies and gentlemen, the Bloco Fogo drumming band, society members in their finery, visiting societies, Morris dancers and three blazing tar barrels.
From its headquarters in Westgate Street (White Lion Lane), Borough will begin the first of seven processions at approximately 6.10pm. It’s a sombre part of the evening as members make their way in darkness to the War Memorial as the band plays the Death March. Here the society will lay a wreath and the Last Post will played before a one-minute silence and the Reveille.
Then the torches are lit and to the stirring strains of Sussex By The Sea the procession returns to headquarters via the High Street.